HARRISBURG, PA (WSKG) –– Gov. Tom Wolf’s approval rating among registered voters is at 39 percent according to a recent poll. That’s down from 52 percent just under a year ago.
Franklin & Marshall College researchers polled a group of 444 voters of all backgrounds from across the state earlier this month, and have been regularly checking in on the Democratic governor’s performance since his term began in 2015.
While Wolf’s approval rating remained about as low as it had been in the recent past among Republicans, the survey results showed eight percent fewer self-identified Democrats and 19 percent fewer Independents were satisfied with Wolf’s performance than in July 2020.
Research Director Berwood Yost says it’s not unusual for a head of state to have lower approval ratings after a long tenure. Wolf is serving his second term as governor and will be term-limited out of office next year.
“If you add in the fact that we have had this crisis, and the governor has taken some heat for it, and the fact that people aren’t feeling better economically, I think that all comes together to produce these lower ratings,” Yost said.
Yost said most participants felt their personal financial situation is either the same or worse than it was a few months ago, despite the state’s gradual easing of coronavirus restrictions and reopening of businesses. That, he said, is likely a big explanation for Wolf’s approval drop.
“There are a lot of industries that are still recovering from the pandemic,” he said. “I think economically, people aren’t sure about where they’ll be in a year.”
Pew Research Center data from this spring backs that observation up: researchers found labor force participation across industries, especially among Black and Brown people, was still much lower than it was before the pandemic.
Meanwhile, nearly 60 percent of Franklin and Marshall’s recent survey takers said Pennsylvania’s voting laws should be changed. Those findings come as GOP state lawmakers are pushing a measure to do just that.
There’s a lot of tension between Republicans and Democrats about making signature and ID requirements more stringent. But when researchers asked the registered voter group about both, they found 74 percent want voters to show ID each time they vote, and 81 percent said signatures on mail-in ballots should be required to match what’s on file at county election offices.
Yost said though political tension exists around that issue, the results suggest something else is going on.
“That argument doesn’t resonate with most citizens. It’s mostly outside of the scope of their experience,” he said.
The poll had a 6.4 percent margin of error because of the size of the survey group.
While the latest voting law proposal from Rep. Seth Grove (R-York) emerged after months of hearings that featured local and national experts and election workers, those hearings were themselves inspired by the “confusion” GOP lawmakers like Grove helped to create by repeating false election fraud claims. Officials of both parties, as well as rulings by state and federal judges, all concluded the 2020 election was free and fair.
“That’s undoubtedly true, but I think it’s also hard to argue…against the idea that elections should be accurate and valid and easily accessed by people,” Yost said.
Some lawmakers also want to ask voters to change Pennsylvania’s constitution to require voters to show some kind of identification each time they vote, rather than doing so only when it’s their first time voting.
Though a broad majority of voters support that idea, lawmakers will first have to approve the question. Even if that happens, it’ll be two years before voters could weigh in.